In a survey of 10 European countries, Recycling achievement in Europe, published by UK think-tank the Resource Recovery Forum (RRF), shows that Germany and Austria both recycled or composted 48% of their waste in 1996, the most recent year for which data was available. Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands were shown to be the only countries which managed to get growth in recycling and composting to outpace a universal underlying growth in

municipal waste arisings, and had all reduced the total volume of final waste disposal to landfill. Germany’s task was made easier by being the only country with declining amounts of waste.

In the UK, however, only 9% of waste was recycled or composted in 1999, with the RRF concluding that investment in education and waste management structure, waste charges and landfill bans are needed to improve the situation. The UK was not actually analysed in the report, but recent government figures (see related story) were used to compare its performance with ten other countries. Other laggers were France, recycling and composting 12%, Italy (13%), Spain (20%) and Norway (23%), where growth in recycling and composting failed to keep pace with increasing waste generation, so that landfill dependency has continued to rise.

Denmark and Switzerland, with their most recent recycling and composting rates at 31% and 42%, respectively, just managed to balance growth in arisings, so that landfilling was “more or less stable.” The survey deliberately excluded a

number of countries with high dependency on landfill including Ireland, Finland, Portugal and Greece. Data for Belgium was insufficient to enable its inclusion.

According to the report, there are several key components in achieving a successful waste recovery rate:

  • strong political will and effective education;
  • accessible facilities and infrastructure for the collection of source-separated recyclables;
  • intensive efforts to implement centralised organics collection and treatment;
  • the introduction of variable rate charging, or ‘pay-as-you-throw’ schemes for household waste;
  • landfill bans;
  • the integrated management of residual waste, including energy recovery facilities.

Recycling achievement in Europe is available for £30 sterling by calling +44 1756 709 808, or by e-mailing [email protected]

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie